As businesses grow more global, the people come closer to one another. While global business relations have increased so have the people’s need to learn and adopt the culture, traditions or etiquette they are travelling to.
Understanding the culture or traditions of a foreign country will always be appreciated by your counterparts as it is a considerate effort to get to know them and it shows respect in the most natural way. Here is the list of some rules for business dining etiquette that are to be kept in mind while travelling to these countries for business trips.
Greet: Handshake with everyone while keeping eye contact. It is highly appreciated if you are fluent in French. If not, don’t worry! Just try to learn a few greetings and phrases to use.
Do use personal and professional titles, until invited to use otherwise.
Business Card: Yes, with the translations on the other side.
Dining: While you are invited for business meals (lunch or dinner) the host will generally sit in the honoured position at the head of the table, with the most important guests seated first to the left and then to their right. Usually, the diner seats are decided beforehand, so if you are dining at the house of a business associate, look for name cards placed on the table.
Wait for your host to indicate where you should sit unless it is totally clear. Once seated and served you should wait for your host to say “Bon appetit!” before beginning your meal.
Greet: While the traditional way to greet is NAMASTE i.e joining your hands, bringing them closer to your chest and bowing a little, light handshake is also acceptable.
Business Card: Yes, given with your right hand.
Dining: Always eat with your right hand as the left hand is considered ‘unclean’. Never say, “Thank you” at the end of your meal, instead, praise the food and show your appreciation as you eat.
Greet: Handshake with everyone. Kissing the cheeks (or simply pressing your cheeks with theirs) may occur once a relationship is formed.
Business Card: Yes. Always remember, business is very relationship driven in Italy. First, trust needs to be established between the business associates before conducting any business.
Dining: Do not eat with your hands and do not begin your meal until the hosts say: “buòn appetito”.
Greet: Firm handshake with everyone with a strong eye-contact. Use the proper titles, until invited to call them by first names.
Business card: Yes and possibly with French translations.
Dining: Punctuality is a priority in Canada. Avoid beginning your meal until everyone at the table has been served. Business lunches are usually short with the types of foods which are light (and no alcohol).
Greet: Seniority is respected in China. Therefore, begin greeting people in order of seniority with a light handshake and a slight bow. Titles should be used respectfully until invited to call them by their first names.
Business Card: In China, the business cards are given and received with both hands. They are also kept in perfect conditions.
Dining: For business meals, the descending order of importance is followed. So the most honoured guest sits on the side of the table furthest away from the door, positioned at the middle of the table, with the second most important person seated next to them and so on. Be sure to arrive on time and wait to be told where to sit. Before beginning with your meal, wait for your host to start eating. Never take the last piece of any dish, instead, you can offer it to others showing honour and respect. Praise the food and thank the hosts in the end. Use of Chopsticks is important.
Greet: Traditionally, one should bow (bending at the waist) while greeting which shows respect. For foreigners, firm handshakes are also accepted but let your Japanese associate initiate it.
It’s considered polite if one learns Japanese phrases. The meeting is most often led by the most senior member while the youngest member speaks less (or nothing at all) out of respect.
Business Card: In Japan as well, the business cards are given and received with both hands. They are also kept in perfect conditions.
Dining: Before a meal in Japan, the custom of o-shibori takes place, requiring you to wipe your hands with the towel provided.
When it comes to beginning the meal, follow the lead of your host, only drinking and eating once they have already done so themselves, first saying “itidakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”). When it comes to drinks, it is usually frowned upon to serve yourself, instead, pouring or refilling each other’s drinks is customary.
7. South Korea
Greet: A traditional Bow which isn’t too fast or too slow should be followed. If you have initiated the bow say: “Hello! (안녕하세요! – an-nyeong-ha-se-yo!)” Or “nice to meet you! (반갑습니다! – ban-gab-seub-ni-da!)”. For the foreigners, light handshakes with a slight bow are also acceptable.
Always remember the titles when introduced in South Korea as calling someone with their first name is considered rude. You address them with their last name+their job title.
Business Card: Given and received with both hands, the business cards should be kept in immaculate condition.
Dining: Authority and age are the most important things to keep in mind in South Korea. Therefore, it is customary to respect elders and authority in society. While going for a business meal, it is important to follow the leader and wait for the instructions to sit and start eating—which is given by the most senior member of the team or the host. Unless hosts initiate a business conversation, avoid discussing it during the meal.
Greet: The handshake should be firm whilst making eye contact.
Business Card: Yes, including the Russian Translations (if possible).
Dining: Wait for the host to begin the meal or first get up from the table and then, you can follow the same. While dining the fork is held in the left hand while the knife is held in the right. In order to strengthen the business relationship and promote goodwill, it is quite common to have toasts or drinking during meals.
Greet: Firm Handshake with everyone.
Business Card: Yes.
Title and surname to be used until invited to call by their first names. Germans are very prompt, hence it is important to be punctual for meetings. Personal and professional talks are usually not mixed in Germany. During the business meetings, there is little or no small talk.
Dining: One should let the host first signal to eat which involves them saying “Guten Appetit”. You should try and finish everything that’s on the plate to avoid causing offence to your host. In Germany, utensils are used for almost everything (yes, even for Pizza). The knife is picked up only when it’s absolutely necessary. Till then, one should use the side of the fork to cut the food.
Greet: During the introduction, shake hands with people according to seniority. Extended handshakes will occur as the relationship builds.
Business Card: Yes, always given with right hand. If the other side of the card has Arabic translations, it fetches you bonus points.
Dining: Remember to always use your right hand. Since Pork and alcohol are not consumed by most Muslims, avoid ordering them. As guests, it’s considered rude to refuse additional helpings during the dinner.
If you think we forgot to include some countries with unique business dining etiquette in this list, do let us know in the comments.